Belton blasts vote count

Staff Written Front Page, News

State rep criticizes outcome while local officials remain confident in election results

By Tia Lynn Ivey

Managing Editor 

As the national spotlight falls on Georgia once again with a statewide vote recount looming and two pivotal U.S. Senate run-off races this January, Morgan County finds itself at the center as one of two Georgia counties that experienced voting machine glitches on Election Day, Tuesday Nov. 3. 

As President Donald Trump seeks a recount in Georgia after narrowly turned “blue” for the first time since 1992, Georgia election officials are facing a backlash from Republicans over the election results.  

U.S. Senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler have called for Georgia’s Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a fellow republican and the top state election official, to resign, accusing his office of mishandling the election.

“The management of Georgia elections has become an embarrassment for our state. Georgians are outraged, and rightly so. We have been clear from the beginning: every legal vote cast should be counted. Any illegal vote must not. And there must be transparency and uniformity in the counting process,” the pair said in a joint statement. “This isn’t hard. This isn’t partisan. This is American. We believe when there are failures, they need to be called out — even when it’s in your own party. There have been too many failures in Georgia elections this year and the most recent election has shined a national light on the problems. While blame certainly lies elsewhere as well, the buck ultimately stops with the Secretary of State. The mismanagement and lack of transparency from the Secretary of State is unacceptable. Honest elections are paramount to the foundation of our democracy. The Secretary of State has failed to deliver honest and transparent elections. He has failed the people of Georgia, and he should step down immediately.”  

Raffensperger stood by the Georgia election process at a press conference earlier this week. 

“We will get it right and we will defend the integrity of our election,” said Raffensperger at a press conference earlier this week. In Georgia this process will remain open and transparent to monitors…we are committed to doing anything and everything to maintain trust in our electoral process for every Georgia regardless of partisan preference.”

Georgia State Representative Dave Belton has also publicly criticized the election system in Georgia. 

“Like many of you, I am extremely concerned at how this election has been handled,” said Belton, who alluded to the possibility of voter fraud in Georgia. “Every legal vote must count, but only legal votes! If we get beat legally, then shame on us; but it is imperative that we keep the integrity of the American political system intact. Illegal votes must be discarded.” Belton cited no evidence of widespread voter fraud that would change the outcome of the election results in Georgia or in any other state. 

Morgan County made national headlines due to the state’s new voting machines malfunctioning on Election Day. 

Morgan and Spalding counties both experienced voting machine malfunctions on Election Day, however Spalding County was affected far worse, having to halt voting which caused Superior Court Judge W. Fletcher Sams to extend voting until 11 p.m. in Spalding County. Morgan County resorted to using emergency paper ballots to keep voting going while the malfunctioning machines were repaired. All seven of Morgan County’s voting precincts experienced technical difficulties with the new voting machines on Election Day.

According to Jennifer Doran, Morgan County’s Election Director, news outlets that reported Morgan County had to halt voting got it wrong. 

“National outlets lumped Morgan County in with other counties and states as all having the same issue. This is incorrect,” said Doran. “The voter access cards were not encoding, so back up procedures were immediately put in place so that voters could continue voting.  The State has back up procedures, and poll workers are trained in these back up procedures. Morgan County poll workers rose to a mighty challenge on election day, and they were fabulous.”

According to Doran, the malfunctions were resolved by noon, taking about an hour to fix before voting resumed normally. 

County Manager Adam Mestres informed the Morgan County Board of Commissioners (BOC) at the last meeting a Dominion representative had arrived in Morgan County to resolve the technical difficulties at each of the precincts. Dominion is the company that manufactures Georgia’s new Ballot Marking Device (BMD) voting machines. 

“There was was some concern from the public that we were turning voters away, but that is not the case,” said Mestres on Election Day during the afternoon. “Everyone who wants to vote will have the opportunity to vote today…“The lines were not significantly impacted, but the lines were longer than we wanted.”

Doran noted that Morgan County’s election officials are ready to conduct a recount if the state orders one, but she believes the election results can be trusted.  

“Overall, the election went smoothly, and the voters can have confidence in the results,” said Doran. “House Bill 316 called for risk-limiting audits starting in this election, so we will be able to see the accuracy of the results. I know the media has sensationalized what has happened, which gives voters less confidence in the process. I want to assure Morgan County voters that this election was held with fairness and integrity, following the laws of the State of Georgia.”

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